Celebrating the bold ... and the ute-iful
Aussie inventions hit the road, writes Karla Pincott
WHEN you think about Aussie car inventions, the first one that comes to mind, of course, is the ute — a body shape so handy it’s now spread to many other countries.
But there are those who say Australia can also claim a far more widespread invention: the car radio.
While a patent was given for a design in the US in 1925, a year earlier Kellys Motors in Liverpool, New South Wales, had fitted one to a Summit car — a vehicle of its own design built from US parts.
It was part of the Summit’s enviable equipment list that included front and rear hand-operated windscreen wipers, a clock and a cigar lighter.
The installation was probably quickly followed by the first hoon complaint as the driver doof-doofed around the streets to the sounds of Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
In 1972 Perth engineer Ralph Sarich invented the Orbital engine, with a triangular piston creating five combustion chambers inside a single cylinder. It is smaller, lighter and more efficient than normal engines, but sealing and overheating issues have limited its use.
Many cars owe their good steering ‘feel’ to the variable ratio rack and pinion steering system invented in 1971 by Arthur Bishop, while others have benefited from his design of a rotary valve for power steering. The baby safety capsule combining a protective system and a removable bassinet was invented in 1984 by Rainsfords (makers of the Safe-nSound child seat).
But it’s time to get back to the ultimate all-round Aussie icon: the ute. Sparked by a farmer writing to Ford in 1932 to ask for ‘‘something I can go in to church on Sunday, and carry pigs to market on Monday’’, the first ute was unveiled by Ford with an open back grafted on to a V8 Coupe.
It was a roaring success and went on to be copied widely around the world, morphing into both workhorse and show pony.
It is the quintessential, true-blue Aussie vehicle. And to this day, it remains one of the greatest Aussie inventions in any field.
World first: a Safe-n-Sound baby car seat undergoes tests in 1997.